Monday, March 31, 2014

Peace in the Valley

Every day, the sun sets.

Right now, I can think of a dozen poems and a dozen poets right for the occasion. But I have no words of my own. It's one of those times when I'm glad for other writers in the world - people who've been there before me, to give voice to feelings I can't articulate. Their efforts are a soothing balm in difficult times, though they can't heal on their own.

I could go on. I could consider the cyclical nature of life, delve into memory, pound out words with a soft fury that I don't understand. But the most peaceful thing right now is in knowing that the sun will set today, just like it has for millennia past. Not everything has changed.

But enough has.


I wrote the above a week ago, the day my grandma passed away. In some ways, it's still unreal. In others, I'm both relieved for her and devastated for everyone who loved her. Since then, I've been to her visitation and funeral and seen first hand all the lives she influenced. I've learned that all you can say to a parent who loses a parent is I love you, over and over; sorry strikes the wrong chord, falls flat for daughter to say to mother, for so deep a hurt. I've considered both terrible futures and beautiful memories. I've learned that sixty six years of marriage is not enough.

Since then, I've bought a house with a garden and seen a chickadee in the backyard. I've started planning how many birdfeeders to get and where to put them, so that my yard will have the busy flutter of Grandma's. With an incredible amount of family help and love, the kitchen has been assembled, and I plan to buy a can of Spam so that when I make Grandma's Sally Ann cookies, I can cut them into the proper shape. (They taste different otherwise.)

Since then, life has blurred around the edges and my brain hasn't focused well. But I was still able to write, to make little connections: her harmonies that influenced my own musical taste, her alternating fashionable and practical clothing styles that subconsciously affected mine, and even (as my cousin pointed out) the source of my slightly crooked pinky fingers.

So much of her is part of me. Maybe that's why this feels like less of a goodbye. It doesn't make it easy, but it does add an element of peace.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Same Coin, Two Sides

Today, it is beautiful out.

The sun shines on the side of the building, and I can imagine the warmth of the brick. I imagine from my desk the feel of heat radiating outward, warming my perpetually cold hands. I imagine sitting in my new house a week from now, with that same sun shining on me in the tea room as I curl up in a blanket, surrounded  by boxes.

I imagine the bitter wind that comes wrapped in spring sunshine, a package deal. Its bite surprises, vicious in the face of such warmth. After the cold of months past, it is bare by comparison, but I keep my winter coat handy for a few more days. How is it possible, this comfort and this chill that makes me curl up on myself? How do they coexist so readily, so constantly, so wordlessly?

I try to envision that balance in myself, to embody yin and yang. It must be there already, because what can exist without both? But I've turned a blind eye to evidence in the past. I've been known to ignore fact and contemplate my own fictions--enhance the negative, orphan the positive.

It's not that the balance isn't there. It's that they could be peaceful together, and I feel at odds with the contrast. I make it more difficult than it needs to be when really, it requires no work at all.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Focusing on the Good

Over the weekend, I completed a whirlwind of important tasks. I visited my grandparents. I packed. I baked. I worried. I drank and spilled lots of tea and coffee. I drank lots of something that was not tea with my immediate family and cousins I've not seen in far too long. Important things, I tell you.

I also got to see both of my nephews, which really shows the difference two months can make at a young age.

Wee Axel

Mr. Wyatt (Photo by Brooke)

And I wrote. I'm now on page 133. I'll overshoot page 140 easily by end of the month, presuming I don't have to spend a crazy amount of time on the packing, which is going well. Tonight will feature vegetarian reubens, some angry saints, and pizza crust made in anticipation of moving day.

Today is okay. Tomorrow will be okay too.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Good Things About Moving

Moving is a complex, stupid animal. There are a billion things to stress over and twice as many people to complicate things and get in your way. Throw in first-time home ownership, and it makes my usual level of worry seem like wondering what to have for lunch: inconsequential and minute.

(Minute is my new favorite word lately, I think. Sorry. Or not sorry. Too busy worrying to parse it out.)

In these times, destitute of peace of mind, I find two things helpful: writing and thinking about the positives. This at least temporarily gets my mind off the stress and helps me remember why I'm putting myself through such a terror-inducing process in the first place.

In the new house, I won't have to worry about whether the landlord is going to charge us for replacing the carpet that the cats have demolished. I'll just have to either live with it or replace it myself, which means no reliance on someone else's fickle policies. (Thankfully, there's little carpet in the new place, and it's not in the most prone place: doorways.)

In the new house, there will be a back door. That door will lead to a cool brick patio and large green yard, where I will walk after work in the summer, barefoot, to water green tomatoes into red bloom. I will pick and eat cherry tomatoes under the shade of an old maple, then fill a bird feeder with seed and wait for orioles and bluejays and cardinals - maybe even hummingbirds - and I will think of my grandma.


In the new house, we can build this and paint it like the forest, or sky, or magnolias. I will sit there to write while watching the birds.

A daydreamy window bench

In the new house, not everything will be perfect. Things will need to be done, money will need to be spent. It will take months to unpack, to feel comfort, to fill the space with a unique and personal scent and touch.

It will not be perfect. But it will be good, and Spousal Unit will be there, and it will be home. And that's all it needs to be.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Stop Thinking, Start Doing

The less I write, the less I write.

The last month or so marks the least consistent streak of writing since I began this blog, back in New Mexico. It's a disturbing trend, and one I'd rather discontinue; not only have I been inattentive here, I've distanced myself from the novel a bit too much. This means that rather than being almost done with Draft 5 and ready to start emailing publishers in desperation, I'm instead on page 119 of 321, barely a third through and giving my own writing mind a vicious, critical stink eye.

To be fair, I have done some tough work, and the first half is what most needs improving. I've cut down several thousand words and the ones that are already in place flow with much better prose, if not more poetically. Things are happening.

But I know I can do better, and so I'm going to. The new goal is to get to page 140 by the end of the month. That's 21 pages - a horrifically easy pace compared to what I've been doing, but a step up from where I'm at now. I've always found it easier to keep to a goal if I share it with lots of people in front of whom I'll feel foolish if I don't get there or at least try really hard. So here you go, People of the Interwebs: my goal is laid out for the express purpose of your critique (though I know none of you judge me as harshly as I do myself, and really just encourage me when things are difficult).

It's still going to be a challenge, especially with a move in the mix. But the nightmare in the back of my mind is that this is less of a lull and more of a permanent dissolving of my focus, a turn away from this work that I've spent years on and toward something else - either distracting myself with other writings or a fade into a wordless existence where I am no longer a writer, no longer challenging myself daily, no longer distinctly me.

That's a bit hyperbolic, but no less true in sentiment. Which is why I'm going to kick my ass into gear.

(With love, of course.)

Write. Finish things. Keep writing. - Neil Gaiman

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